So this is the country we’re dealing with. We got off the plane into an airport that looks like this:
Only with more art and soothing music than you’d know from the photo. When we’d traversed the immaculate marble floor and were standing in the immigration line, a motorized lift appeared. We looked up, and oneof the hundreds of lights above the room had burnt out. Singapore knows how to have nice things. This is the land where cars that are ten years old must be scrapped, or their owners must pay an enormous fee to keep them. This is a land with so little crime that people will claim a table in an open food court by leaving their wallet unattended on the table while they go get their food. This is famously the land that outlawed chewing gum so it wouldn’t get on the sidewalks.
We volunteers have had a windfall of free time since we got here two days ago, as the local crew is doing brilliantly on its own. Here is one of the new braziers, anchored at the site on the Bedok Reservoir:
Not quite like those in Providence, with some different (and very resourceful) floatation devices. We look forward to trying them out.
Meanwhile, we’ve been free to roam about the city. Yesterday, much of the group went to the zoo, which is supposed to be incredible, while myself and others fled the torrential rain to the Asian Civilisations Museum, which is currently exhibiting Chinese Terracotta Warriors. And we got to have dinner with our gracious hosts at Tamasek Polytechnic University, who treated us to delicious Chinese-Malay cuisine and some much-appreciated Tiger beers.
Today was a bit more involved. Nearly the entire volunteer group, after a tasty, spicy Asian street breakfast (and a bit of umbrella buying, considering yesterday), hopped on a city bus and headed downtown to an area called Little India.
Little India is vibrant and friendly. One of the many vendors spilling into the street was a woman who painted henna tattoos. A volunteer had a bright idea to get the WaterFire logo, which he conveniently had on his business card, rendered in henna on his leg, and most of the other volunteers followed suit.
Later on, we went to Arab Street, which, obviously, is the Arab neighborhood, and got a little dizzy at the decadent fabrics and gorgeous scarves. Which is a feat, by the way, because we were one degree north of the equator at midday on the equinox. We weren’t having many chilly thoughts.
Heading across town, we happened on the legendary Raffles Hotel, a relic and a reliquary of British occupation in a white-stucco, linen-suited time. The Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel is the only place in Singapore where littering is legal, as every table is supplied with a bin of salted peanuts, the shells of which are to be discarded on the floor. A famous Singapore Sling cocktail from the bar of its invention will set you back $26. I got a club soda with lime, which cost me $10. But it’s hard to leave the Raffles feeling like you’ve just had a regular drink at a regular bar, either.
In case we hadn’t yet had our fill of the Expensive But So Worth It column of activities, we finished up our adventures on the Singapore Flyer, an enormous Ferris wheel with air-conditioned, room-sized cars. Views of the Singapore skyline and its ambitiously playful architecture were stunning. We discussed just shoving a bed into one of the cars and living there. Beauty in every direction. (Sorry about the crappy pictures here – we haven’t had a lot of time to go through pictures to find the good ones yet.)
Tired now. More later.